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Neuroinflammation in autism spectrum disorders

Afaf El-Ansary1235* and Laila Al-Ayadhi234

Author Affiliations

1 Biochemistry Department, Science College, King Saud University, P.O. Box 22452, 11495, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

2 Autism Research and Treatment Center, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

3 Shaik AL-Amodi Autism Research Chair, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

4 Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

5 Medicinal Chemistry Department, National Research Centre, Dokki, Cairo, Egypt

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Journal of Neuroinflammation 2012, 9:265  doi:10.1186/1742-2094-9-265

Published: 11 December 2012



The neurobiological basis for autism remains poorly understood. However, research suggests that environmentalfactors and neuroinflammation, as well as genetic factors, are contributors. This study aims to test the role that might be played by heat shock protein (HSP)70, transforming growth factor (TGF)-β2, Caspase 7 and interferon-γ (IFN-γ)in the pathophysiology of autism.

Materials and methods

HSP70, TGF-β2, Caspase 7 and INF-γ as biochemical parameters related to inflammation were determined in plasma of 20 Saudi autistic male patients and compared to 19 age- and gender-matched control samples.


The obtained data recorded that Saudi autistic patients have remarkably higher plasma HSP70, TGF-β2, Caspase 7 and INF-γ compared to age and gender-matched controls. INF-γ recorded the highest (67.8%) while TGF-β recorded the lowest increase (49.04%). Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) analysis together with predictiveness diagrams proved that the measured parameters recorded satisfactory levels of specificity and sensitivity and all could be used as predictive biomarkers.


Alteration of the selected parameters confirm the role of neuroinflammation and apoptosis mechanisms in the etiology of autism together with the possibility of the use of HSP70, TGF-β2, Caspase 7 and INF-γ as predictive biomarkers that could be used to predict safety, efficacy of a specific suggested therapy or natural supplements, thereby providing guidance in selecting it for patients or tailoring its dose.

Autism; Neuroinflammation; Heat shock protein-70; Transforming growth factor-β; Interferon-γ; Caspase7